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Electromagnetic Transport Systems for the Phosphate Industry



The transport of bulk solids is a major effort, and a major cost, in the phosphate industry. An electromagnetic system that would propel capsules through an underground pipeline has been developed and promises to be a competitive alternative to truck, rail and slurry pipeline transport.

A demonstration project which uses a linear synchronous motor to move capsules has been constructed at IMC-Global, in Lakeland, FL. The demonstration project utilizes 700 feet of 24 inch diameter centrifugally cast fiberglass pipe, and contains a 200 foot long accelerator/decelerator section, a switch demonstration, and load and unload stations. The test vehicle can traverse back and forth at speeds up to 40 MPH. The six foot wheelbase vehicle uses six-wheel assemblies at each end of a rotating hopper, and has a maximum payload capacity of 660 pounds.

Electromagnetic Drives for pipeline systems are intended as a direct replacement for pneumatic drives. Pneumatic capsule pipelines have a long history, including the transport of limestone in a Japanese cement processing plant. However, various practical limits tend to constrain the throughput of pneumatic systems. The use of electromagnetic drives can greatly improve on the constraints and can result in cost effective systems able to compete with truck, rail and other transport systems. Underground pipe transport can also relieve the environmental impact of conventional transport, and result in faster delivery in overcrowded metropolitan regions.

Development of the Magplane electromagnetic capsule pipeline system was initiated by the desire of the Florida Phosphate Industry to find a cost effective way to reduce the environmental impact of conventional transportation of their very large quantities of material. Typical ore applications would use an underground pair of 24 inch diameter pipes for outbound and returning capsules, and would typically carry 10 millions tons per year over a distance of 3 to 30 miles. Preliminary economic studies have shown a satisfactory return on capital and have resulted in a willingness of the phosphate industry to undertake a significant R&D program.

This report gives the performance of the system during the test program carried out to date in which the basic feasibility of the design has been demonstrated. Plans are described for the follow-on test program intended to provide an indication of component lifetimes.

This report also gives results from an economic model that shows the potential for an attractive return on investment for future applications in the phosphate and other ore transport industries.